It’s not particularly fun but, believe me, it will be 10 times worse if you leave it until term starts and you’re busy with all sorts of classes.
Don't worry if the length of this article is a bit daunting, some of this admin probably doesn't apply to you. Here is a quick overview of what you will have to do in the coming weeks (vaguely in the correct order):
- Opening a French bank account
- Admin required by Ecole Polytechnique
- Health and Insurance
- Vaccinations and pass sanitaire?
- Titre de séjour for non-EU citizen
- CAF - Aide personnalisée au logement (APL)
1. Opening a French bank account
If there is any way possible, try to do this before coming to campus. It will save a lot of hassle (many people waited months before receiving their cards, logins, pin codes etc. because of mail problems). Otherwise, banks will be present on your first day to help you sign up.
Warning! If you are minor, your parents/legal guardian will need to be physically present to help sign the documents so don’t let them leave before they do so. (This is some sort legal requirement but if you are a minor and arrive alone, your best option is Société Générale. Contact Sonia Cordier, she might be able to do something?)
Why else do you need this bank account (on top of the obvious exchange rates when using foreign currencies)?
- Ecole Polytechnique needs your RIB - relevé d’identité bancaire (attached to any French bank account) to automatically take money out of your account for rent and they want it as soon as possible!
- To get a proper French phone number you need a French bank account. You can buy some cheap phones in the underground/on the streets but they are mostly unreliable, restricted or expire after a certain amount of time.
- Lydia, a payment method often used on campus, also requires a French number so by extension a French bank account
- Though a French bank account is not necessary to apply for a titre de séjour, it will probably make it more practical
2. Admin required by Ecole Polytechnique
- paying CSX sport subscription to give you access to the sport facilities for the year
- paying the deposit and rent for your accommodation (if you already have your RIB give it to them, otherwise you can pay by card directly at their office)
- signing your documents for the accommodation (you will receive these on the first day)
3. Health and Insurance
All students must have health insurance and civil liability (responsabilité civile) insurance. Once this is done you should also declare your médecin traitant. Administration will give you more information on this process so don't worry if it doesn't make sense yet but try to start it as early as possible and don't hesitate to ask older students, they've had to go through these exact (boring) admin tasks.
For the Health Insurance (social security and mutuelle):
- If you are a french citizen and already live in France, this should be pretty easy. You should already have a carte vitale and an account on http://www.ameli.fr/. You will just have to send your attestation des droits à l'assurance maladie (you can get it as a pdf) to the school when they ask for it.
- If you have the french nationality but have lived abroad, you will have to get a social security number by sending documents for Ouverture des droits à l’assurance maladie to the CPAM of Essonne. This must be done physically through a letter as far as I know. This sheet indicates the exact documents you will need to provide. Demander l'ouverture des droits à l'assurance maladie (Formulaire 15763*02) | service-public.fr
(don't worry if you don't have a phone number - either leave it blank or ask a friend/family member with a french number)
- If you are an EU student, the school advises you should get a French social security number (I was not able to find out if this is actually compulsory or not - some BX23 don't have it and have not been told anything, but it is free) even if you have an EHIC. You have to register on this website Inscription des étudiants étrangers et des collectivités d’outre-mer à la Sécurité Sociale (ameli.fr)
- If you are from outside the EU, you must also use Inscription des étudiants étrangers et des collectivités d’outre-mer à la Sécurité Sociale (ameli.fr) to register
In the last 3 cases, you will first receive a temporary social security number and an attestation des droits à l'assurance maladie. (either physically or with instructions to create an account on ameli.fr and get it from there).
You can then apply for a carte vitale, either through ameli (Mes démarches -> commander une carte vitale) or by sending documents physically (if the website is not cooperating just do it this way). This is the card you will present at the doctor's etc... to not have to pay, or at least a lot less.
Warning! You need a visa étudiant, but not a RIB to start this procedure so start as early as possible
You are also recommended to get a mutuelle (extra health insurance, to make a lot of things basically free) on top of this but do your research properly and maybe ask around! HEYME is the company the school recommends for the civil liability and mutuelle - just wait for them to contact you about it.
4. Vaccinations and pass sanitaire?
As you know, France has introduced a pass sanitaire - a digital document certifying that you have either been vaccinated or had a negative Covid test (less than 48-72h) are free to enter restaurants, museums, take trains, etc... If you have been vaccinated in France and have a french social security number, you should be able to download a vaccination certificate easily from here Accueil | Attestation vaccin (ameli.fr)
If you have been vaccinated abroad/do not have french social security yet/need to get one or two doses in France, there will probably be something to do. I'll try to keep you up to date!
5. Titre de séjour for non-EU citizen
If you are a minor when you arrive on campus/for some other reason have another form of visa, you will have to apply for a titre de séjour étudiant around 2 months before it expires. Here is a list of the documents you will need (source) but get in touch with Sonia Cordier and she will help you.
The last tickbox here is proof you have paid for the the titre de séjour by buying a timbre online. It costs 75 € and must only be done when you go and collect your titre (so at the very end).
Check if you need to translate any documents!
Despite what you might hear, you do not actually need a French bank account to apply for a titre de séjour but you do need to prove you have sufficient revenues. You can either get 615 euros per month in a year (615*12 = 7380) at once on your bank account or get a document that confirms that you will receive 615 euros every month (see screenshot for more details of how to prove this). There is also more information here - Étudiant étranger en France : visa de long séjour ou carte de séjour | service-public.fr.
This process is now possible online through on this platform: Accueil | Étrangers en France (interieur.gouv.fr) but if you have problems contact the Préfecture d'Essone and they might offer you an in person appointment. You might also have to go in person to the Sous-Préfecture de Palaiseau to get your fingerprints registered.
6. CAF - Aide personnalisée au logement (APL)
If you apply to the CAF, they can cover some of the costs of your rent if you qualify. Click on "Faire la demande" and provide the documents they request: CAF - Aides et services - Mes services en ligne - Simuler ou demander une prestation
You will need a RIB and (at least) a social security number to apply!
If you don't have a French number, they will try to send you your password by post so try to ask a friend if they wouldn't mind you using theirs instead.
And voila, we made it! Don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions.
Tips and Tricks:
- As soon as you get the documents, scan them in somewhere, you do not want to be the person having lost all of them on the first day. It will also be useful when all sorts of procedures ask for photocopies of them.
- These things take ages, don't worry if you still don't have any answer after months (though maybe check up on it just in case)
- To speed up the process there are some useful documents you can prepare
- birth certificate
- passport style photos in France format(there are photo machines on campus)
- scans of your passport, visa, etc...
- your RIB
Useful numbers (check opening hours, they are sometimes a bit wacky):
Allô Service Public for general information on procedures (they cannot say how your own application is advancing etc..., just what you should be doing) - Qu'est-ce qu'Allô Service Public 3939 ? | service-public.fr
CAF Essone - 3230 from a French number, or +33 9 69 32 21 21 from a foreign one (Monday to Friday, 9h to 16h30)
Ameli - 3646 or +33 184 90 36 46 (Monday to Friday, 8h30 to 17h30)